I sometimes get frustrated about LinkedIn. After I've been out to a business networking event, I'll get LinkedIn requests to connect from people who happen to be in the same networking group as me. I've never met them, and I'm probably not likely to either.
Other people I meet at networking events want to connect after only one meeting - usually all we've done is exchange business cards and had a short chat. I then get a LinkedIn request and wonder why they do this. Do they want to mine my contacts for marketing? Do they want to broadcast to my network? Or do they want to 'really connect' with me? What do they use these connections for??
There are many blogs that offer helpful tips on networking. I've included links to several blog posts that I've previously written on the topic. But Bruce recently sent me the link to the BNET blog where Geoffrey pointed out his 6 rules to business networking. Very sensible stuff and all the tips have really valuable insights.
I realise that I actually follow most of these tips when I Network. Geoffrey's rules are:
- Friendship trumps acquaintanceship
- You must be truly worthy of trust
- Regular contact is absolutely necessary
- You must anticipate your contacts needs
- Never pass up an opportunity to network
- Win business for your contacts
Whilst I'm already a class 1 advocate of numbers 1, 2,3 and 5, I have some other tips that I use regularly with my network. These help me to stay focuses, keep my network active and connected and improve the relationships I have with my strong ties. Here they are:
- Follow up. Email the person you have met at the event. Start the contact. This is key to the relationship actually beginning and is a key determination as to whether it will be successful or not - and go to a deeper level...
- Look at your LinkedIn social graph and watch for the weak ties. Should they be there - as a weak tie - or should you invest in the relationship a little bit more - and turn them into a strong tie over time?
- Be a Natural Networker. This takes work but is worth the investment in the long run. People who are genuine have much better contacts and connections than people who network because they want to spread their business cards around. This is similar to point 1 above.
- Think about the introduction. Have an icebreaker sentence handy to use when you approach a new group. it will help your confidence and start the conversation flow
- Don't expect instant results. Networks take time to grow and develop. Invest time in creating and nurturing networks
But most of all - value the connections that you do have - and, like a good friend, a good business relationship will be valuable to you over and over again...